The Handbook
The Handbook

The Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis to its friends) are a phenomena enjoyed by few simply because they occur so far north that you really do have to travel to catch them. But it’s well worth the effort for what’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most often observed within the Arctic Circle, you’re going to want to stay somewhere warm, but also worth the journey. So here are some suggestions…

Hotel Rangá, Hella, Iceland

From hot springs to glaciers to stunning snowscapes, Iceland has it all, to add in that it’s the perfect spot to see the Northern Lights just feels greedy! The highest rated resort in Southern Iceland, Hotel Rangá has 52 rooms and suites as well as a riverside fine-dining restaurant. A celebrity hotspot (no pun) of sorts, it’s hosted the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Bear Grylls, not to mention Kirsty and Phil from Location, Location (should we have just stopped after Jake Gyllenhaal?), the hotel might be noted for its luxury accommodation, but really it’s the Northern Lights that set Hotel Rangá apart.

Lights spotters can request a wake-up call to ensure they catch them, providing warm clothes and blankets for guests and custom made benches to rest on while they enjoy the display.

Where: 851, South Iceland, Iceland

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway

There’s no shortage of igloo hotels out there, but you couldn’t possibly be more northern than Sorrisniva even if you had a whippet and a flat cap. The northern-most igloo hotel in the world is rebuilt every year from the ground up, replete with 30 rooms, measuring a total of 2,500 square metres and created with artwork from talented sculptors. As well as suites there’s an ice bar (even the glasses are made of ice), an ice gallery and an ice -chapel.

But away from the snow, the hotel’s northernness lend itself to something else, the northern lights (did you think we’d forgotten them?), in peak northern lights season (September to March) the hotel puts on local tours which combine the lights with cultural storytelling.

Where: Sorrisniva 20, 9518 Alta, Norway

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Canada

You know what you’re getting with a Fairmont hotel, pampering, comfort and a level of luxury that you’d only expect from the group that owns The Savoy. And Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is no exception, a 700 acre mountain resort on the shores of Lac Beauvert and within Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as over 300 rooms as well as luxury cabins, the hotel sports one of Canada’s best golf courses.

The hotel also offers their Dark Sky winter experience, which starts at the Jasper Planetarium and is led by astronomy experts before heading outside to the LED-lit Dark Sky Plateau to enjoy the 11,000 acres of never-ending views of constellations and galaxies. As well as the largest telescopes in the Rockies, and the expertise of the astronomy expert there’s hot chocolate and s’mores plus, of course, the northern lights.

Where: Old Lodge Road, Jasper, Alberta, Canada, T0E 1E0

Levin Iglut, Lapland, Finland

Those who lie in glass houses, won’t have time to throw any stones if they’re at Levin Iglut, because they’ll be transfixed by the northern lights. The luxury glass igloos look straight up into the northern lights. Some of the igloos come with outdoor jacuzzis and a private terrace, and all have the sort of view you money can’t buy along with the sort of breakfast, served to your igloo, that money definitely can buy.

Away from the en-suite, luxury igloos, the hotel’s Restaurant Aurora Sky is the ideal place to eat some authentic Scandi food before an evening spent looking at the sky (which, conveniently, you can also do at the restaurant thanks in part to the glass spire roof!

Where: Harjatie 2, FI-99130 Levi, Lapland, Finland

Winterlake Lodge, Alaska

If your mental image of Alaska involves nothing but cabins in the wilderness, then you’ve already got Winterlake Lodge in your mind’s eye. It’s the ultimate cabin and it’s most definitely in the wilderness (best accessed by seaplane!). The main lakeside lodge, wooden and designed for the cold, is the ideal place for escaping everything the Alaskan weather can throw, the perfect respite with open fires, dining and cozy sitting area as well as a library of Alaskan classics. There’s also daily yoga, wine tastings, and massages and a further six cabins for larger groups or busier times.

And, of course, there’s the northern lights, which light up the horizon throughout the dark months.

Where: Alaska 99508, United States (and that's the sort of adress you have when you're truly in the wilderness!)

Hotel Husafell, Iceland

If you want to explore Iceland, start at Húsafell. The 48 room hotel boasts incredible views and enough luxury as you’ll need after a day out in the windy wilderness. The restaurant serves seasonal Icelandic fare (the raised fire pit in the centre is enough to revive the coldest of hands) but the geothermic baths would be even more ideal, with two large pools this Icelandic tradition is alive and well at Húsafell.

And, because we’re all here for the northern lights, Húsafell is well placed to take advantage of the far reaching views to enjoy the phenomena. The hotel offers a wake-up call and is right tin the centre of aurora zone (no surprise that the the Northern Lights Institute is located nearby). Expect around three sightings a week, which is pretty good.

Where: Húsafell 311, Borgarbyggð, Iceland

Arctic Gourmet Cabin, Sweden

Get ready to dine Arctic circle style, with dishes of moose, reindeer (sorry Rudolph), Arctic char and whitefish as well as berries picked from the nearby forest making up chef Johan’s menu at the Arctic Gourmet Cabin. Possibly the smallest fine dining restaurant in the world with a maximum four diners, plus chef and sommelier, this is the definitive intimate dining experience. Away from gourmet, there’s plenty to talk about in the cabin department too. There’s two of them (this is seriously bijoux) decorated in simple style and underlining just how personalised the experience at Arctic Gourmet Cabin really is.

And if you’re after some northern lights action you shouldn’t be disappointed. Away from the light pollution, the lights can be enjoyed from the comfort of the hotel’s ourdoor bathtub!